The Alaskan story of independence and self reliance is such an icon that non-Alaskans fail to recognize the welfare state politics that have led to absurd, wasteful federal policies. Perhaps the most wasteful is the federal subsidy to the Tongass National Forest of Alaska.
In the name of employment, the federal Treasury has paid private companies to harvest the Tongass National Forest. In one case, a foreign-owned timber company reaped the benefit of that federal subsidy.
On Tuesday, two Congressmen, Republican Steve Chabot and Democrat Rob Andrews, will offer an amendment to the Interior Appropriations Bill that would prohibit the Forest Service from subsidizing private timber companies in the Tongass.
Many of the national forests lose money. For 1992 to 1998, the timber program on 83 of the 109 national forests were perpetual money losers, according to the landmark research by Robert Wolf, who died in December 2005. In 1995-1997, the Tongass National Forest was $69 million in the red, according to a General Accounting Office study. In those same years, 25 percent of Forest Service roads were built in the Tongass.
The federal government is effectively paying timber companies to log the Tongass. Why? Because the state has powerful senators and congressmen who can keep this subsidy alive.
At a time when the federal deficit has reached epic levels, it is foolish to maintain this subsidy to a few timber companies. The Chabot-Andrews amendment is especially timely. It deserves support.